Martin Luther King and the Philosophy of Nonviolence

Constitutional Rights Foundation

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Martin Luther King, Jr. is remembered for his achievements in civil rights and for the methods he used to get there — namely, nonviolence. More than just a catchphrase, more than just the “absence of violence,” and more than just a tactic, nonviolence was a philosophy that King honed over the course of his adult life. It has had a profound, lasting influence on social justice movements at home and abroad.

In this lesson activity, students read background article on Dr. King's philosophy and rationale, as well as pivotal examples of the philosophy in action in Birmingham, Selma, Memphis, and Chicago. Then students role-play a group of civil rights protesters planning an action in a Southern town in 1962 calling for desegregation of a local lunch counter, deciding the best methods of nonviolent protest and their reasons for their choices.

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